DURBAN – KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for agriculture and rural development, Themba Mthembu, on Tuesday reiterated that an “agricultural master plan” being developed would drive transformation and act as a foundation for development.
Mthembu made the remarks at an Agribusiness breakfast dialogue hosted by the Agribusiness Development Agency at Coastlands Hotel in Umhlanga.
He told business people in attendance that the agricultural sector was of “key strategic importance” to the province and contributed about 4.4% to KZN’s economy.
“KwaZulu-Natal produces almost 30% of national agricultural output and hence contributes significantly towards creating formal and informal employment while providing food security in South Africa,” said Mthembu.
He said there were about 4.5 million hectares of land suitable for livestock production and some 1.5 million hectares was arable, while an estimated 316,000 hectares of arable land in communal areas was under-utilised.
“We are working on changing perceptions about agriculture and we have witnessed transformation growth in the industry,” said Mthembu.
He said the department had based the sectors’ growth on four pillars: The promotion of efficient utilisation of agricultural land, expansion of irrigable land, improving market access and adding value and agro-processing to agricultural products before they reached local and international markets.
“The aim is to achieve the goal of a united agricultural industry that feeds our nation, creates employment and takes advantage of export opportunities in the overseas market.”
Mthembu said the department - along with the industry - had been working on an agricultural master plan that would work as “a foundation for development” within the sector.
Once the master plan had been finalised, and after consultation with farmers and role players across the province, it would be presented to the Cabinet.
He said the focus would be on the transformation and promotion of previously disadvantaged producers and their inclusion in the agricultural mainstream economy.
“In order to safeguard the province’s food security position, we must use the master plan to strengthen existing legal frameworks to preserve agricultural land and protect it from commercial developments,” said Mthembu.
He said the department’s vision was to see the Agribusiness Development Agency become a driver of the “agrarian revolution” in KZN.
“The agency has to provide support to emerging black commercial farmers, especially those who have acquired land through the government land reform programme, to obtain the necessary support to thrive in the whole value chain of the agricultural sector,” said Mthembu.
“We want our farmers to participate fully in the whole value chain within Agribusiness and through partnerships with formidable retail groups and financial institutions.
"Working together as government and business, we can bring about change in the agricultural sector and help alleviate the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and employment.”
African News Agency (ANA)